T-Mobile seeks OK for 39 GHz tests in 3 markets

T-Mobile is eager to get moving on the 39 GHz spectrum it acquired in Auction 103, and it’s not interested in waiting several months for the FCC to process its long-form 39 GHz application.

The “un-carrier” filed an application last week for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to test base stations and handsets ahead of actually getting the licenses for the spectrum it won at auction.

The tests would use 800 megahertz of 39 GHz spectrum in and around Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; and Irvine and San Diego in California. Doing so will help accelerate T-Mobile’s ability to provide services using 39 GHz spectrum in the future, according to the application material.

In each of these markets for which it seeks the STA, T-Mobile was a winner in the 39 GHz auction, which ended in March. T-Mobile submitted more than $931 million in gross bids and won 2,300 licenses covering nearly 400 Partial Economics Areas (PEAs).

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau accepted T-Mobile’s long-form application, but it hasn’t yet processed T-Mobile’s application or other long-form applications for the 39 GHz licenses, and it expects the process to take several more months. Therefore, it’s asking for permission to do these tests. The desired start date is June 7, with an end date of December 7.

Ericsson and Nokia are expected to provide the infrastructure equipment. T-Mobile said a limited number of handsets supporting 39 GHz are in operation today and because of the limited range of 39 GHz signals, they will only be able to communicate when they’re near one of a limited number of base stations that T-Mobile intends to operate.

T-Mobile proposes to transmit using 39 GHz from a total of 19 base stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in two small clusters, one base station in Irvine and one base station in San Diego. 

RELATED: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile top spenders at mmWave 5G spectrum auction

Auction 103 included spectrum licenses in the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands. 

As part of the 14,144 licenses made available, incumbents in the 39 GHz band (including the three largest carriers) committed to relinquish their spectrum usage rights in exchange for incentive payments determined by bidding in Auction 103.

Incumbents in the markets where T-Mobile wants to conduct its tests include AT&T, which bid under the FiberTower name, and Verizon, which bid as StraightPath, which it acquired in 2017 after a bidding war with AT&T.  

T-Mobile isn’t the only operator itching to get moving on new spectrum. Verizon asked the FCC to approve its application to conduct tests in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band in a handful of markets. That spectrum is part of the C-band auction due to start in December. Verizon’s application was still pending as of mid-day Tuesday.